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General Information

DEFINITION--A disease of metabolism characterized by the body's inability to produce enough insulin to process carbohydrates, fat and protein efficiently. Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is most prevalent among obese adults.


  • Islet cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.
  • All body cells that need insulin to convert food into chemicals the body can use.

SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Both sexes of adults.


  • Fatigue.
  • Excess thirst.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Decreased resistance to infection, especially urinary-tract infections and yeast infections of the skin, mouth or vagina.


  • Insufficient insulin produced by the pancreas to sustain normal function of body cells.
  • Interference with insulin utilization in body cells for unknown reasons.


  • Obesity in adults.
  • Stress.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Use of certain drugs, including oral contraceptives, thiazide diuretics, cortisone or phenytoin.
  • Family history of diabetes mellitus.


  • Control your weight to avoid becoming obese.
  • Maintaining a regular exercise program may help prevent or delay NIDDM.

What To Expect


  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory urine and blood studies to meas-ure glucose, cholesterol and insulin levels.


  • Self-care after diagnosis.
  • Doctor's treatment.
  • Surgery for treatment of some complications, such as gangrene or heart disease.


  • Cardiovascular disease, especially atherosclerosis, stroke and coronary-artery disease.
  • Vision impairment.
  • Peripheral vascular disease, with gangrene in legs and feet and sexual impotence in men (sometimes).
  • Hypoglycemia, if oral hypoglycemic medication is used (rare).

PROBABLE OUTCOME--This form of diabetes can often be controlled with weight loss. Good control decreases the chance of complications. In some cases, it progresses to insulin-dependent diabetes, a more serious form.

How To Treat


  • Learn to test your urine for glucose (sugar).
  • Learn all you can about controlling diabetes and recognizing signs and symptoms of complications.
  • Wear a Medic-Alert pendant or bracelet (See Glossary).
  • Lose weight to a normal level and maintain your ideal weight.
  • Obtain prompt medical treatment for any infection or injury.
  • See Resources for Additional Information.

MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe oral medicines to reduce blood sugar (hypoglycemics). These are not always necessary. They can often be discontinued when body weight becomes normal.

ACTIVITY--No restrictions. Regular daily exercise is an important part of controlling diabetes. Consult your doctor.

DIET--A special diet will be necessary to: reduce weight; limit refined carbohydrates; balance unrefined carbohydrates, protein and fat; and increase plant fiber. Your doctor will provide instructions.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You have symptoms of diabetes mellitus.
  • The following occurs during treatment: Inability to think clearly; weakness; sweating; paleness; rapid heartbeat; seizures; coma (may indicate hypoglycemia). Numbness, tingling or pain in the feet or hands. Infection that does not improve in 3 days. Chest pain. Worsening of original symptoms, despite adherence to treatment.
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